‘Bittersweet’ romances

(Semi-Spoilers for a bunch of shit, GoT included, mostly in reference to romances. Endgame spoilers too, Avenger’s fans)

I’m sick of these ‘bittersweet’ endings. Game of Thrones, Samurai Jack, True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries, probably more I can’t think of right now. They keep pulling this shit in romance stories and expect me to be happy ‘because the romance was really the scenes along the way’ and we don’t get a HEA.

(IMHO) You cannot have a main couple, the main relationship, the hinge of so much of the story… and then decide ‘they don’t end up happy, yay, bittersweet.’

(I’m not against Tragedy. I understand tragedy. But these try and have their cake and eat it too- they give us an unsatisfying ending that’s makes us feel mostly meh and call it a win because it’s not quite tragedy, so they call it bittersweet.)

Game of Thrones: I don’t follow it too much, but I read some of the books, watched a few seasons, and was mostly waiting for it to finish before investing myself emotionally. And I’m glad. I hope GRRM has a different ending in mind, or a better way to reveal all this, because the showrunners cocked it right up. Jon and Dany were, for many people, the end-game. The Ice and Fire. And I was pumped when they hooked up (never let a little incest get a Targ down after all). It was finally canon! And then the politics started:

Jon has a better claim than Dany. But they love each other. A marriage was even suggested.. and that would have tied it up all nice, even a little too nice, but really, didn’t they deserve this by now? But noo, they had to give me crazy!Dany, and have Jon kill her before fucking off North.

Maybe if he killed himself too- make it a proper tragedy. Have it ALL burn if you must. But don’t give me this, tell me everyone will be better off with King Bran, and leave it. Especially with so little foreshadowing and straight up telling us that Dany is not her father and she isn’t mad.

Samurai Jack: Similar thing. Last season, a love interest is introduced. We have 3 or 4 episodes of straight relationship building. We are told the ending will be bittersweet. For those that haven’t seen it. Jack was a Samurai who was taken to the future and his whole goal was to return to his time and kill the demon that imprisoned his land and people (the demon that is still in power and messing up lives in the far future) … but while being in the future he meets many people and has adventures and gains dear friends.

I, and a lot of fans, assumed the bittersweet ending would be that he defeats Aku and can’t return to the past. He stays in the future, having never saved his people, but saving the future and continuing his life. I would have loved that and it would have been bittersweet. What we got though? He does go to the past again, he defeats the demon and all of his future adventures were essentially annulled.

I could even kind of live with that, but no, they fucked with my emotions: that love interest I mentioned? She is the main baddie’s daughter. Born in the future. She went back in time with Jack, and after they defeat her father they plan a wedding. We have lovely scenes of feudal Japan, traditional wedding clothes… and AT THE WEDDING Ashi suddenly goes “wait, if we killed my father in the past, I shouldn’t exist…” and she DISAPPEARS.

WHAT. Maybe, *maybe* if she disappeared right at the start after her father was killed because duh. Maybe if Jack mourned and took the loss as a tragedy, and we could all feel what he had to give up. Given the mythic nature of the show it’s even possible that gods could have brought her back or let her live! But no. We get jerked around by a whole wedding sequence before ‘lol, timelines.’ ARGH.

True Blood / Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries: These both sort of go in the same direction in that the main relationship is messed up in them, but two different ways! We get double fucked!

Sookie starts out with Bill. We assume that’s the main couple and for the first two books/seasons it kinda works that way. But then we start getting more and more Eric and we realize that Sookie and Eric are the main couple. In the show it teases her needing to ‘pick’ back and forth, even (because it’s Showtime) going with a threeway-relationship fantasy… in the books she’s actually with Eric for many books, marries him, and they do love each other properly.

And she ends up with neither in either series. In the show Eric leaves and starts doing some shady business things, Bill dies, and Sookie sort of goes ‘fuck you all’ to the supernatural in terms of boyfriends and ends up with a random human that isn’t even pictured. We just get ‘she has a husband, she’s pregnant, and that’s all that matters.’

In the books? It’s worse. She ends up with Sam. The man she thought of as a friend, who was often an ass about her relationships with vampires, who had several bad relationships in the books because he makes bad choices… at one point he’s shot and he dies. Sookie, having a magic fairy bobble, uses her one wish to save Sam. After this there are some vampire politics going on, yada yada, Eric has to go and marry a vampire queen because of something his sire did, after keeping that to himself, not talking to Sookie about it, and just ruining all character development. Oh, and he can’t contact her at all ever again. They remain separated until Sookie’s death. The ‘epilogue’ book says that Sookie marries Sam, has kids with him, and is happy. Eric stays with his vampire queen, learns to respect her, and fullfills his contract with her.

So… we had *13* books about Sookie and her relationship with vampires to have it end with… she stays with the guy that she went on one date with a few years ago and decided AGAINST being with him. Then she falls in love, had wacky adventures, becomes a whole new person, learns to be herself in a supernatural world… and then goes back to the best friend who was always ‘the best friend’ and she specifically rejected romantically before even the first book.

With all this ranting, what’s a good bittersweet ending, you ask? I can tell you: Tony and Pepper in Endgame. Cap and Peggy. I even love the ending to the Vampire Knight manga which has a ‘twist’ that I could see myself doing.

Avengers: Tony and Pepper are engaged. Thanos comes and fucks up the world, and half the population disappears, included Tony’s mentee and pseudo-son. The next 5 years are hell. But Tony and Pepper stay together, they get married, they have a daughter. They pull through. And when there’s a chance to save people they take it– but Tony doesn’t want to risk his daughter by messing up the last 5 years, as horrid as they were. They work a way around it. In the end Tony has to sacrifice himself but both Peter is back, and Morgan gets to live. Pepper is with him in his last moments, tells him it’s ok, he can rest. Iron Man did his duty to his team, to the world, to his family, to his love.

Steve is a man out of his own time. Captain America was frozen and reawakened years after his first love is dead and even attends her funeral. He kisses her niece as it’s the closest thing he has to Peggy. But beside that he does not have time for romance, as much as the rest of his team tries to hook him up and make fun of his likely-virgin self.

Now the war is over. There is finally peace. And there is another chance. He can go back, back to Peggy, back to the past with the burden of the future in his mind, but a chance at some happiness. And he takes it. He lives out his days with Peggy and we get a glimpse of Old Man Steve.

Vampire Knight: Vampire Knight is a manga and the romance is very tangled. It’s something of a triangle, the main heroine Yuuki unable to choose whether to be with Kaname (her brother and a Pureblood vampire) and her foster-brother Zero (who is a bitten vampire and will eventually descend into madness). Of course at first she knows none of this and the story is as much about vampire politics and similar issues (Hunters, bad vampires, good vampires, etc) as just romance. Eventually she is also a Pureblood vampire (she was locked away as a human for her protection… it’s complicated, just go read it).

But the end– ah the end I love. Because in a way she picks both. And if I’m honest it’s the kind of ending I would hope to write. At first she picks Kaname (who, if I had to pick, I am team Kaname). She sleeps with him in the last volume. But because of said vampire politics and nonsense Kaname gives up his life. He does not die, but is encased in crystal. Yuuki is left heartbroken and, as we learn later, pregnant.

Zero, her foster-brother sometimes-enemy, tries his best to stay by her side. We have another series that details the next several centuries where they remain allies, friends, all the while Yuuki raising her daughter by Kaname. Eventually Zero wins her over and they marry and have a son. Even more time passes and after Zero descends into madness and is killed, at his request, Yuuki is alone.

Yet… she is also a Pureblood vampire with strong magic. So she, finally alone, having lived her life and raised her children, wants to give her first love another chance at this new world. And so she sacrifices herself to reanimated Kaname as a human who has no memories of his time as a vampire. In the end Kaname wakes up during the daytime to his daughter and step-son greeting him.

That, my friends, is a bittersweet ending. That is love, and loss, and grief, and joy, and lives continuing on, and ending, and returning.

And those are the stories I want to write. The stories I plan. Sometimes tragic, sometimes happy, sometimes bittersweet. I write family sagas, I have generations to go through– and sometimes people will die, and others will have to move on, or stay stuck in the past, or crazy magic loopholes are found to make it all better.

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